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Washington Wizards vs. Miami Heat: Regular Season Game 8 Open Thread

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UPDATE 2: Maybe Gilbert's up to his old tricks apparently, because Comcast just reported that he's going to play after all.

UPDATE: Gilbert Arenas will not play tonight due to a sore calf. A sore calf? What? Also, Andray Blatche is starting.

The Essentials:

Wizards (2-5) vs. Heat (5-1)
7:30 p.m.
American Airlines Center
Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Notable very early Heat numbers this season

T2nd in expected winning percentage (.833)
23rd in pace (93.2 possessions per game)
13th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (105.7)
4th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (94.6)

Notable Heat numbers last season

14th in expected winning percentage (.509)
22nd in pace (89.9 possessions per game)
20th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (107.8)
11th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (107.6)

Pre-game links

Peninsula is Mightier, SB Nation's Heat Blog
Hot Hot Hoops, a Miami Heat blog
Peninsula is Mightier: Contributions from all over have Heat off to best start in a decade
Ira Winderman's blog for the Miami Sun-Sentinel
Michael Lee: The Other Side: Heat
GameDay Miami

Tonight's Projected Starters
Wizards vs. Heat
Gilbert Arenas
PG Mario Chalmers
Randy Foye
SG Dwyane Wade
Caron Butler
SF Quentin Richardson
Andray Blatche
PF Michael Beasley
Brendan Haywood
C Jermaine O'Neal

We all remember Miami from last week, so I don't think there's too much need to go way in-depth about them. You pretty much know what you're going to get from Miami. A brilliant performance from Dwyane Wade, an uneven performance from Michael Beasley that features some highs and some lows, some underrated play by Udonis Haslem, some designed post-ups for Jermaine O'Neal that end badly, excellent defense all around and Wade with the ball in his hands when it's close. If Miami is hitting threes, they win. If they aren't, they have trouble scoring and the game will be ugly. No matter what, though, you can't expect Miami to beat itself. They always come prepared, and they always make you beat them.

The Heat are 5-1, and the guys over at Peninsula is Mightier are giddy, but it's very early in the season. Their schedule overall has been pretty weak (three of their five wins have been over Indiana, New York and Chicago), though they do have a big statement win over Denver on their resume. We should have expected a fast start from Miami -- eight of their first ten games this season are home games, and only three of those games are against playoff teams from last year. Meanwhile, according to Jeff Sagarin's ratings, the Wizards have played by far the toughest schedule in basketball. All I'm trying to say is ... Heat fans, tap the breaks. It's still very early, and the schedule turns for both teams.

That said, a win tonight will be tough. Miami's a very good home team, and Mike Miller and Antawn Jamison still aren't back. It'll be interesting to see how the Wizards go after Dwyane Wade tonight. He got whatever he wanted against Miller and Randy Foye last time, but DeShawn Stevenson did a much better job on him, and Dominic McGuire has shown some defensive chops in the limited minutes he's received. If Stevenson plays a lot, though, then the offense suffers because Stevenson is such a poor offensive player. With the offense struggling, can you afford that lack of production out there?

What would I do? I'd start Randy Foye, put him on Quentin Richardson and play Caron Butler on Wade. Richardson's got a major size advantage on Foye, but all Richardson does is shoot threes anyway, so it doesn't make a major difference.

Other things to watch tonight:

  • The last time these two teams played, Brendan Haywood did a great job preventing Jermaine O'Neal from making much of an offensive impact. O'Neal's still an elite help defender, so he did some good things, but Haywood really dominated him on the glass and when Miami had the ball. The Wizards need a similar performance from Haywood tonight.
  • Udonis Haslem's really been a stabilizing presence for Miami's bench all season, and had a big game on the glass last time these two teams played. Either Andray Blatche needs to do a better job making sure he boxes Haslem out, or Flip Saunders needs to consider starting Blatche and bringing Oberto off the bench to match up with Haslem.
    Key to the game: Driving to the basket. Miami has defended the three better than any team in basketball this year (38.1% eFG% against), and are also great at defending long jumpers (35.5 FG%, right ahead of Washington, in fact), but they aren't as good defending the rim (19th in eFG% against for layups and dunks). This is where Gilbert Arenas had the right idea last time, but he should still try to spread the ball around and give others a chance to attack the rim too.

Game's at 7:30 tonight. GO WIZARDS!